CFT Previews: Your Dec. 26 Bowl Viewer’s Guide


Taking a quick-hit look at the Dec. 26 bowl menu, which features two teams each from the ACC and Big Ten, the first time those two conferences have taken part in the 2014-15 postseason

WHO: Illinois (6-6) vs. Louisiana Tech (8-5)
WHAT: The 4th Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl
WHERE: The Cotton Bowl, Dallas, Tex.
WHEN: 1 p.m. ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: Illinois saved its season — and likely head coach Tim Beckman‘s job — by winning its last two games to become bowl-eligible for the first time since 2011, the year prior to Beckman’s arrival.  Louisiana Tech is also playing in a bowl game for the first time since 2011, and the first time under second-year head coach Skip Holtz.  The first month of the season, though, it didn’t look like Tech would reach the postseason as the Bulldogs stumbled out of the gate at 2-3; they righted the listing ship over the last two months, however, as they closed out a 6-2 run to end the season with a Conference USA West division title and a spot in the league title game.  Those two losses to close out the season, incidentally, were by a total of six points — on the road in overtime against Old Dominion (30-27) and against Marshall (26-23) in the conference championship game.  One thing to note about the Illini: they went 4-3 with quarterback Wes Lunt starting and 2-3 when he didn’t start.  On the bowl depth chart, however, the quarterback position is listed as Reilly O’Toole or Lunt, in that order.  Another thing about the Illini, which doesn’t bode well for the Big Ten school: they were 109th in points allowed per game (33.9), while the Bulldogs were 13th in scoring offense (37.5 ppg).
THE LINE: Illinois, +6
THE PREDICTION: Louisiana Tech 41, Illinois 27


WHO: Rutgers (7-5) vs. North Carolina (6-6)
WHAT: The inaugural Quick Lane Bowl
WHERE: Ford Field, Detroit, Mich.
WHEN: 4:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: In games that Gary Nova has thrown fewer than two interceptions, Rutgers is 26-7 since 2011.  In games that Nova has thrown two or more interceptions, RU has gone 2-10, with the last of those wins coming in November of 2012.  North Carolina, meanwhile, was 49th in the country and fourth in the ACC with 12 picks during the regular season.  After jumping out to a 5-1 mark in their first season in the Big Ten, the Scarlet Knights stumbled to the regular-season finish line with a 2-4 record, with all four of those losses coming by at least 18 points and three of them coming by 20-plus.  The bad news for RU?  They’re 92nd in the country in points allowed per game (30.9), while UNC is 36th in scoring offense (33.8 ppg).  The good news for RU?  UNC’s defense is even worse, finishing the regular season 119th in points allowed (38.9 ppg).  Even worse for the Tar Heels, they’re 105th in passing yards (263.5 ypg) and have given up 34 or more points in eight of their 12 games this season.  In other words, this has all the makings of a good old-fashioned postseason shootout, one that would bring back memories of the old BYU Holiday Bowl appearances from years gone by.
THE LINE: Rutgers, +3
THE PREDICTION: Rutgers 48, North Carolina 45


WHO: North Carolina State (7-5) vs. UCF (9-3)
WHAT: The 7th Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl
WHERE: Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, Fla.
WHEN: 8 p.m. ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: If you find defensive football soothing to your palate, this bowl game has the potential to be extremely soothing, especially when it comes to the AAC representative.  UCF is ninth in the country in points per game allowed at 17.9, while North Carolina State is a middling T-68th (27 ppg).  In three of their last four games — all wins, incidentally –the Knights allowed a total of 14 points.  Neither offense figures to offer much resistance as NCSU finished the regular season 61st in scoring (29.8 ppg) and UCF finished 71st (28.2 ppg).  Since losing its first two games of the season to Penn State and Missouri, UCF reeled off wins in nine of their last 10 games.  NCSU, after winning its first four games, went 3-5 in the last two-thirds of the season, although they close out by winning three of four to become bowl-eligible for the first time under second-year head coach Dave Doeren.  UCF is currently riding a three-game bowl winning streak after losing the first three postseason games in the football program’s history, with each of those wins coming by double-digit margins.  The player to watch offensively is NCSU’s Jacoby Brissett, a dual-threat quarterback who posted nearly 3,000 yards of offense (2,344 passing, 498 rushing) and 25 touchdowns.  Arguably the most impressive part about the Florida transfer’s season is that he threw just five interceptions in 344 attempts, the third-fewest picks in the country, behind USC’s Cody Kessler (4, 413) and Oregon’s Marcus Mariota (2, 372), among the 62 quarterbacks who attempted at least 340 passes.  UCF, though, was tied for ninth in the country with 18 interceptions.
THE LINE: North Carolina State, +2
THE PREDICTION: UCF 20, North Carolina State 13

Army ‘will probably’ give RB Kell Walker a shot at playing QB

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With uncertainty surrounding Ahmad Bradshaw, Army will apparently leave no stone unturned when it comes to the triggerman for its offense.

While Bradshaw, the Black Knights’ starting quarterback the past three seasons, will be a cadet at the service academy this fall, it’s unclear — or even unlikely — that he’ll be permitted to play football in 2018.  In December of last year, the Army defended an internal investigation that concluded Bradshaw and a female cadet had a consensual sexual relationship.

“We are,” head coach Jeff Monken said according to the Times Herald-Record when asked if the football team is moving forward under the assumption that Bradshaw will not be available this season. “We kind of have to move in that direction because we don’t know what the status is going to be. Right now, we are just preparing for us to have a new quarterback.”

With that in mind, Monken also confirmed this week “that sophomore slotback Kell Walker ‘will probably’ get a look at quarterback when the Black Knights open spring practice Tuesday,” Sal Interdonato of wrote.  Walker, who was third on the Black Knights in rushing last season (629 yards) and led them in yards per carry at 7.3, has never played quarterback before at any level.

Army, of course, is unique in that its offense allows them to even attempt such an experiment as their run-heavy system resulted in just 65 passes in 13 games last season.  Conversely, they led the nation in rushing at 362.3 yards per game.

“We will probably play him there some just to see what he is capable of doing,” Monken said of Walker by way of the Herald-Record. “We obviously want to get the ball in his hands as often as we can. He’s a good player for us. I think that would be a way to do that. I just don’t know if he’s going to be the guy that can lead our offense.

“The leadership piece for the quarterback is maybe as important as anything. I think he’s a good leader whether he will be able to lead from that position I do not know.”

The potential loss of Bradshaw, though, can’t be understated.  As a junior last season, Bradshaw ran for a school-record 1,746 yards and accounted for 14 of the Black Knights’ 50 rushing touchdowns.

The Walker experiment notwithstanding, Kelvin Hopkins will likely head into the spring as the favorite to replace Bradshaw under center.  The sophomore was the only player other than Bradshaw to attempt a pass last season, throwing 18 times (six completions) for 76 yards, one touchdown and one interception.  He also carried the ball seven times for 40 yards.

Alabama reportedly completes 2019 schedule with game against FCS Western Carolina

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Alabama’s still six months or so away from beginning the defense of its 2017 national championship, but there is some scheduling news for the following season to note.

According to, Alabama has signed a contract to play a game Nov. 23, 2019, against Western Carolina at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa. The FCS program will receive a $525,000 guarantee to play what’s essentially a scrimmage that counts in the standings.

That game completes the Crimson Tide’s schedule for the 2019 season. UA had previously announced games against Duke on Aug. 31 of that year, as well ones against New Mexico State (Sept. 7) and Southern Miss (Sept. 21).

The game against the Blue Devils will be a “neutral-site” affair in Atlanta as one of the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Games that year.

As for the game against Western Carolina, it will mark Alabama’s fifth matchup with the FCS school. The Tide won the previous four meetings, obviously, and won that quartet games by a combined score of 201-20. The first meeting came in 2004, the last in 2014.

Head coach Mike Sanford assumes Western Kentucky play-calling duties

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Mike Sanford is getting back to the roots that helped him land his first head-coaching job in the first place.

Last season, Junior Adams served as the offensive coordinator at Western Kentucky in addition to his duties as wide receivers coach.  While he will maintain those continue carrying those titles in 2018, the Bowling Green Daily News reports, Sanford will take over as the game-day play-caller.  Prior to coming to WKU, Sanford was the coordinator at both Notre Dame (2015-16) and Boise State (2-14).

Last season, the Hilltoppers were 89th nationally and 10th in Conference USA in scoring at 25.5 points per game.

In addition to Sanford taking over as the primary play-caller, the school also noted on its official website that “Sanford intends to take a more hands-on approach to the quarterbacks this season and will be aided with the addition of Matthew Mitchell as quarterbacks coach.”  Last season, Mitchell was an offensive graduate assistant for the Hilltoppers.

The need for a new quarterbacks coach arose after Steve Spurrier Jr. left in February for a job at Washington State.

Cal confirms addition of Michigan transfer Moe Ways

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A day after it was announced on social media, Cal has officially added a Power Five transfer.

Sunday, Maurice “Moe” Ways revealed on Instagram that he would be transferring from Michigan to Cal.  Monday evening, the Golden Bears announced that the wide receiver has signed a financial aid agreement with the university and will play for the football team in 2018.

Ways will be coming to Berkeley from Ann Arbor as a graduate transfer.  The upcoming season will be his final year of eligibility.

In addition to the, uh, addition of Ways, Cal also announced that junior college outside linebacker Deon White has also been added to the roster.

“We are excited that Maurice and Deon are joining our program,” head coach Justin Wilcox said in a statement. “Both have tremendous upsides and with their skill sets we feel that they will help us immediately.”

A three-star member of the Wolverines’ 2014 recruiting class, Ways was rated as the No. 8 player at any position in the state of Michigan.

In 25 career games, the former Detroit Country Day high schooler caught eight passes for 71 yards.  Ways started two of those contests, with both of those starts coming during his redshirt freshman season in 2015.